Thursday, June 13, 2013

No More Marijuana Melodrama?

We've been waiting... And waiting... And waiting. It's been a long wait. But finally, we have a verdict on SB 374.

Immediately after a last minute "surprise skunk" from the Nevada Department of Taxation, Governor Brian Sandoval (R) sounded awfully cagey on what he was planning to do next. But yesterday, we saw another surprising twist. Guess what Governor Sandoval signed into law yesterday.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval signed SB374 into law Wednesday. The measure establishes the framework to make pot available to medical marijuana card holders, imposing fees and requirements for growers, processors and dispensaries of pot. It also contains provisions to continue to allow home-growing until 2016.Nevadans voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2000 and a year later were able to obtain medical marijuana cards.

However, legislative efforts to create a legal way for users to obtain the drug — aside from growing a small number of plants at home — have all failed over the years. Now, their wait is over.

"This new law will provide patients with the safe and reliable access to medical marijuana that they deserve," Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement shortly after the bill's signing. "Regulating medical marijuana sales will also generate revenue and take a bite out of the state's underground marijuana market."

Nevada becomes 14th state to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries, and it's one of 19 states and the District of Columbia with medical marijuana laws, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. Illinois lawmakers passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana this year that is awaiting the governor's final decision.

Just this month, we've seen some bizarre drama surrounding what has been a bipartisan backed bill. Just before the 77th session of the Nevada Legislature adjourned sine die, SB 374 was caught in a strange bout of procedural confusion. Then after the Legislature adjourned, Governor Sandoval began dragging his feet. And all of a sudden, the Department of Taxation dropped a fiscal note that was never even hinted at during legislative hearings.

But finally, SB 374 was signed into law yesterday. And finally, Nevada's medical marijuana patients can look forward to easier access to the treatment they need without the intense harassment from law enforcement that's plagued Nevada for the past 13 years. Finally, this bizarre marijuana melodrama is beginning to come to an end.

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